90% of American men, 70% of women will become overweight
Modified NIH release
October 3, 2005
90% of American men were overweight or became overweight according to a 30-year study carried out by researchers at Boston University, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and other institutions. They study, which gathered data from 4,000 adults and tracked them over 30 years, also found that half of the men and women in the study who had made it well into adulthood without a weight problem ultimately became overweight while one in three subjects became obese.
A large, community-based study – considered the
first study to assess the long-term risk of developing
overweight and obesity in adults – found that
over 30 years, nine out of 10 men and seven out of
10 women were overweight or became overweight. In
addition, more than one in three were obese or became
obese. The study was supported by the National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the National
Institutes of Health (NIH).
Researchers analyzed the short-term and long-term chances
of developing overweight and obesity among more than
4,000 white adults enrolled in the offspring cohort
of NHLBI’s landmark Framingham Heart Study, an ongoing
longitudinal study in Framingham, Massachusetts. Participants
ages 30 to 59 were followed for 30 years, from 1971
to 2001. The results appear in the October 4, 2005,
issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
“National surveys and other studies have told
us that the United States has a major weight problem,
but this study suggests that we could have an even
more serious degree of overweight and obesity over
the next few decades,” said NHLBI Director Elizabeth
G. Nabel, M.D., who also co-chairs the NIH Obesity
Research Task Force. “In addition, these results
may underestimate the risk for some ethnic groups.”
Framingham participants were white, and other studies
have shown, for example, that Hispanic and black individuals,
especially women, have a greater prevalence of excess
weight compared to their white counterparts.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics,
part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
65 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 years and older
are either overweight or obese, and approximately
30 percent of adults are obese. These estimates are
from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination
Survey, a population-based survey.
In the study, nine out of 10 men and seven out of 10 women were overweight or became overweight, while one in three Americans were obese or became obese.
Framingham researchers assessed the participants’
body mass index (BMI) – a standard measure of
weight relative to height, which is an indicator of
total body fat. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 is considered
a normal, or healthy, weight for adults. Overweight
is a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2, and obesity is a BMI
of 30 kg/m2 or higher.
Making it to middle age without extra pounds was no
guarantee for staying at a healthy weight –
even in the short term. About one in five women and
one in four men who were at a healthy BMI at a routine
Framingham study examination became overweight after
four years. Among those who were overweight, 16 to
23 percent of women and 12 to 13 percent of men became
obese within four years.
“Our results, although not surprising, are worrisome,”
comments Ramachandran Vasan, M.D., Associate Professor
of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine
and lead author of the study. “If the trend
continues, our country will continue to face substantial
health problems related to excess weight.”
“Overweight and obesity increase the risk of
poor health. We hope these results will serve as a
wake-up call to Americans of all ages,” adds
Nabel. “Even those who are now at a healthy
weight need to be careful about maintaining energy
balance to avoid gaining weight. Taking simple steps
to make sure that the overall the number of calories
you consume do not exceed the amount you burn can
play a major role in lowering your risk for many chronic
Overweight increases the likelihood of developing diabetes,
high blood pressure and heart disease, stroke, breathing
problems such as asthma and sleep apnea, some cancers,
osteoarthritis, and gall bladder disease. Obesity
is associated with these conditions as well as with
early death. Research has shown that even a small
weight loss (just 10 percent of body weight) can help
people who are overweight or obese lower their risk
of developing many of these conditions.
The Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation,
and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults
recommend that both people who are overweight as well
as those who are at a healthy weight prevent weight
gain. The guidelines are available online at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/ob_home.htm.
Strategies that promote a healthy weight beginning
in childhood are critical. For information on We
Can!, NIH’s national education
program to enhance children’s activity and nutrition
to prevent childhood obesity, visit the website at
http://wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov or call toll-free 866-35-WECAN.
For help assessing obesity risk and advice on how to
lose weight, consult your healthcare professional.
Mass Index Calculator: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm.
for a Healthy Weight: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/patmats.htm
Can! Families Finding the Balance –
A Parent Handbook (in English or Spanish): http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan_mats/parent_hb_en.htm
Guidelines for Americans 2005: http://www.usda.gov/cnpp/dietary_guidelines.html
To interview a scientist about this study, contact
the NHLBI Communications Office at (301) 496-4236.
NHLBI is part of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH), the Federal Government’s primary agency
for biomedical and behavioral research. NIH is a component
of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
NHLBI press releases and other materials including
information about obesity prevention and weight loss
are available online at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
This is a NIH news release.